When you think of Golden Corral, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the buffet. It’s a fair image for the restaurant to have, since it serves more than 150 items as part of its all-you-can-eat spread. But there’s more to this eatery than just the food – read on to learn 20 more interesting facts about Golden Corral.
20. Golden Corral had humble beginnings
James Maynard and William F. Carl had tried to open franchises of other restaurant chains to no avail. So, by 1971, they came up with their own concept, and they called it Golden Corral Family Steak House. They opened their first location in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on January 3, 1973.
A 4,800-square-foot building housed the first Golden Corral, with seats for 175 customers. From the flagship restaurant stemmed a string of locations that spread from North Carolina to Virginia and down south to Texas. At that time, though, Golden Corral was just a steakhouse – no extra-large buffet in sight.
19. Rebranding brought on the buffet
The first string of Golden Corral restaurants had salad bars, but, by the mid-1980s, guests began requesting an even bigger selection. On top of that, they wanted a longer list of entrees. So the company revamped its look and menu – the steakhouse would provide a small portion of the fare on offer.
Golden Corral’s reinvention meant that each restaurant expanded to 11,518 square feet. That way, 400 or more customers could come in and enjoy the extra-long menu. The centerpiece of it all was the Golden Choice Buffet, which held 160 foodstuffs both hot and cold, as well as a carving station and bakery – something for everyone.
18. Golden Corral does good in the community
It’s not just about the food at Golden Corral – the company gives back to the community too. For one thing, it has served upwards of five million free meals to veterans and active-duty servicemen and women. Golden Corral has also funneled nearly $13 million to Disabled American Veterans, which provides support to more than one million veterans annually.
Golden Corral has also raised nearly $10 million to run Camp Corral. The summer camp welcomes kids between the ages of eight and 15 whose parents serve or have served in the military or have been injured or killed in the line of duty. Their mission is to help their campers forget about the stress and challenges that come with their parents’ jobs.
17. Its restaurants have a great breakfast
At Golden Corral, much of the focus falls on the dinner time buffet. But don’t forget that it whips up morning meals too. On Fridays and weekends, the restaurants host full-on breakfast service, with made-to-order eggs, as well as breakfast meats, pancakes, waffles, cinnamon rolls and fresh fruit, among other options.
During the week, you can still get your breakfast fix at Golden Corral. From 9:30 in the morning until two o’clock in the afternoon, the buffet is filled with brunch fare – a selection of the aforementioned breakfast classics alongside lunchtime bites. Not sure what you’re craving? You can, of course, get a little bit of everything since it’s Golden Corral.
16. Fondue and cotton candy? Yep, that too
Golden Corral’s buffet wouldn’t be complete without some sweets to polish off a savory lunch or dinner. They’ve got the usual suspects, such as homemade cookies, cakes and pies. But you might also want to grab a skewer and send dippable bites into the chocolate fountain – some places have a triple fountain with chocolate, white chocolate and caramel sauce.
Along with the chocolate fountain, Golden Corral has another special sweet in some of its restaurants. As of 2010, it added fresh cotton candy to the buffet at no additional charge. In response to the update, Restaurant News suggested to patrons, “Along with your… meatloaf and mashed potatoes, you can get some spun sugar to help it all go down smooth.”
15. You can get buffet fare to go
There’s no need to dine in on your next visit to Golden Corral. Instead, you can grab a box and fill it with all of your favorite buffet bites. Then a restaurant staffer will weigh your selection to price it – once you pay your bill, you can drive back home to chow down.
You can also order a Golden Corral meal online for yourself or for a group of four or six. Online ordering slightly varies from weigh-and-pay to-go dinners, though – you log onto the restaurant’s website and select main dishes like chicken, beef, pork and seafood. Then, you can add drinks, desserts and side dishes to your meal too.
14. The food’s not all unhealthy
Some see the expansive buffet at Golden Corral and assume every selection available will be a gluttonous one. However, it’s possible to eat healthily at this eatery, so long as you follow a few specific tips. The Applewood Grill area of the buffet features low-calorie entrees such as the crab-stuffed yellowfin or the bacon spinach salad.
Because there’s such a variety of food at Golden Corral, you will have the opportunity to find other healthy options, especially in the form of fresh fruits and veggies. Fill your plate with a variety of food groups to ensure that your meal is complete – but be sure you’re not overdoing it on portion sizes either.
13. Golden Corral has been the backdrop for a few fights
In March of 2019, Nancy Burke-Bradley stepped away from her table at the Brooklyn, Ohio, Golden Corral to go to the ladies’ room. When she returned, she told Fox 8, she “thought she was coming back to [her] meal.” Instead, a massive brawl had broken out – at least 15 patrons took part in the fight.
Neither police nor witnesses could say why the brawl had started, but it kicked off a half-hour before the Golden Corral buffet ended that Sunday night. Joe Overton also witnessed the fight and said, “It just happened. It just exploded on us. It happened so fast, without warning, you didn’t know what it was.” Three separate police departments arrived on the scene to help the restaurant staff break it up, though.
12. Parents can make the most of family meals at Golden Corral
Golden Corral is known for treating families and children well. In the summer of 2018, for example, they ran a deal in which kids could eat a buffet dinner for 99 cents with the purchase of an adult meal. Little ones under three always eat free, and the restaurant has a discounted rate on dinner from Monday to Thursday for older children too.
Some parents have come up with other ways to make the Golden Corral buffet work for them and their family. One guest shared via Reddit, “Once I saw a family come in – mom, dad, one kid and one baby. The mom got a high chair on wheels for the kid, and left the kid in a car seat at the table. She pushed the highchair to the buffet and proceeded to stack plates on it like her own personal table on wheels.” Efficiency at its finest.
11. There’s an in-house smokehouse
Since the beginning of time, humankind has been smoking meats, as they realized the absorbed smoke helped to preserve meat and fish for longer periods. Nowadays, we don’t need as much help to preserve our food, but we still eat smoked meat because, well, it’s delicious.
By 2017 Golden Corral decided to get on board with the smoked-meat craze that had been blazing since the beginning of time. Its smokehouse menu features baby-back ribs, chicken, brisket and turkey, all of which it smokes over hickory wood. Guests will appreciate how fresh the selection is too – each franchise smokes its meats on-site.
10. You can visit Golden Corral for a holiday meal too
Preparing a Thanksgiving feast or a Christmas dinner can be stressful, especially if cooking isn’t your forte. Fortunately, if there’s a Golden Corral nearby, you have a second option – you can visit the restaurant for a holiday meal, which features the regular buffet along with some themed editions to the selection.
Golden Corral’s 2018 holiday menu, for instance, contained many people’s special-occasion go-tos. Along with carved turkey and ham and slow-roasted beef, it served cornbread stuffing, sweet potato casserole and a coconut cake to top it all off. And guests could choose whether they wanted to stage their feast within the restaurant, or if they wanted to take all of their holiday foods to go.
9. Golden Corral staff stopped a crime after they noticed something strange
The team at a Mount Airy, North Carolina, Golden Corral noticed that something was wrong with the exhaust vent over their stove – it had stopped pulling smoke from the air. So the restaurant’s manager went onto the roof to take a peek inside of the pipe to see if he could make out the blockage.
Inside, the manager found 59-year-old Charlie Edward Walker stuck inside of the exhaust pipe. Police later found him to be in possession of burglary tools, so they charged him for that, as well as with felony breaking-and-entering and damage to property. They didn’t arrest him until after he received medical attention since he had been stuck in a smoke-filled pipe.
8. Some customers take the “all-you-can-eat” aspect to a new level
One of the most appealing things about Golden Corral is the fact that you can pile your plate high with food, eat it all and return for seconds, thirds and more. One Reddit user said his father would take full advantage of that, writing, “My dad would put a mountain of food on his plate.”
But the Reddit user went on to say that their father never finished the so-called “mountain of food,” at least not when he did the same thing at a Chinese restaurant. Instead, there, “he’d then proceed to lay down [on] the restaurant floor and take a nap.” Whether he ate everything at Golden Corral remains a mystery.
7. If you want your money’s worth, eat the fresh food
Much of Golden Corral’s food comes from its selection of prepared foods. Everything from gooey mac-and-cheese to the smokehouse meats to freshly baked desserts will get plenty of attention. But money-conscious diners who want to get their money’s worth for a buffet meal should opt for fresh fruits and veggies too.
Of course, fresh produce provides plenty of nutrients and makes a trip through the buffet line that much healthier. Plus, fruits and vegetables can cost a lot if you buy them from the grocery store – filling up on them at an all-you-can-eat buffet will therefore make your breakfast, lunch or dinner worth the money. If you’re there for the hot food, make a deal with yourself that you’ll finish a plate of fresh foodstuffs before heading back for that pizza, pasta or carved meat.
6. You can prep some Golden Corral favorites at home
What’s your favorite dish at Golden Corral? It turns out, lots of people love their freshly baked rolls. So much so that a few pioneering home chefs have come up with ways to replicate the restaurant’s recipe at home. The trick to making them extra tasty might just be the last step, in which you brush melted butter over top of the baked bread. Yum.
Of course, some diners might crave other selections from the Golden Corral buffet. Taste of Home magazine has therefore come up with 20 copycat recipes for some of the restaurant’s most popular items, including fried chicken, apple pie, meatloaf, country fried steak and bread pudding.
5. Heroes have been born at the Golden Corral
On Thanksgiving Day in 2018, Hannah Jarvis and her family had gathered at a North Carolina Golden Corral for a holiday meal. As they ate, though, Hannah’s seven-month-old daughter, Calli, started to choke on her food. The waitress called out to the restaurant for help when neither she nor the family could help the baby.
As Calli’s grandfather, Cimarron Waldrup, told WLOS, “Folks turned to my grandbaby, and that’s when that lady that saved her came up.” Her name was Deborah Rouse, and she firmly patted Calli’s back to help her release the food. And then, as Hannah recalled, “It was miraculous, [Calli] started breathing again.”
4. The Golden Corral test kitchen constantly whips up new fare
Golden Corral has long been known for its “home-style buffet favorites such as pot roast, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables,” according to its franchising website. On top of that, they’ve long served up a fresh salad bar, where guests can piece together their own leafy side dishes too.
But Golden Corral’s menu will never remain stagnant. That’s because it has a test kitchen team who whip up new dishes for customers to try and evaluate. At any given time, it has about 30 new items in development, typically dishes that feature bold flavors or ingredients from ethnic cuisine.
3. There’s an in-house bakery with fresh sweets around the clock
By 1991 Golden Corral had chosen its first seven restaurants that would try out the then-new “Metro Market” concept. They sprawled over 10,000 square feet and sat up to 450 customers, doubling the eateries in size. At the same time, it added new features to the buffet, including the Brass Bell Bakery.
The bakery derived its name from an obvious source – a brass bell that bakers would ring every quarter-hour. That would signal to Golden Corral guests that they should come grab rolls, bread and pastries that had just emerged from the piping-hot oven. Nowadays, the Brass Bell Bakery whips up homemade pies and cakes too.
2. One Golden Corral waitress got an unexpected tip
Rachael Vanorden worked at a Kentucky Golden Corral on Christmas Eve in 2016, and a husband-and-wife duo sat at one of her tables. During their dinner, the husband got up and left for about ten minutes. When he came back into the restaurant, he and his wife “just got up and left,” Vanorden told WYMT.
So Vanorden went to clear off their table for the next diner. There, she found her tip, which appeared to be one dollar – but it turned out to be much more. “There was $1,000 wrapped inside of a $1 bill,” she revealed. The waitress said that she planned to use the unexpected cash to buy her three-year-old son some presents for Christmas and pay off some bills too.
1. Rumors have spread that the all-you-can-eat aspect of Golden Corral isn’t entirely true…
In February of 2016, the World News Daily Report published a shocking story – a 51-year-old Massachusetts man had decided to sue the Golden Corral corporation for false advertising. He supposedly claimed to have been kicked out of the restaurant after spending seven hours eating between 50 and 70 pounds of food.
But World News Daily Report shares sensational articles to get viewers to its website. On top of that, most of its content is made up of fake stories written to rile people up and motivate them to share and repost. No man sued Golden Corral and, for now, you can continue to eat all you want at the beloved buffet restaurant.